Saturday, March 29, 2008

South Island Marathon

Wanganui Downtown Flowers

Wanganui Serjeants Gallery

Picton Harbor
Our exit from Queenstown seemingly was like a marathon. We scheduled ourselves to drive from Queenstown all the way to Picton, where we were to catch the ferry for the North Island the next morning. This is 822 kilometers (493 miles) of two lane road, lots of traffic, and much of it on twisting roads. The maps say is should take over 12 hours of driving. So we could get into Picton at a decent hour we decided to leave at 6 a.m.

Even with standard time now in effect in New Zealand, the sun really doesn’t get rolling until about 8 a.m. Thus we spent two hours of driving north to Omarama in the black of the late night-early morning. There are some good things and some bad things about this experience. The good thing is that none of the blankety blank slow moving campers are not on the road. The bad thing is that those who are on the road are mostly natives who are driving much faster than you because of familiarity with the road. I just hate it when those bright lights are bearing down impatiently in your rear view mirror. From Omarama we took a new route to the Pacific Coast which turned out to be a very good highway with little traffic and few curves.

Highway 83 and 82 took us to Timaru on the coast where we joined Highway 1 for the run all the way to Picton. Along the coast we were in rolling plains with immaculate farms. We were able to skirt around Christchurch with little delay and then on up the coast to Blenheim and Picton, the Marlborough wine region of the South Island. We stayede overnight in Picton which has a very picturesque harbor and small downtown.

After a good nights sleep (my fingers were finally uncurling from gripping the steering wheel) we got in the queue for the Interislander ferry. This ferry had a train deck on the bottom. For some reason we were one of the lucky selected cars to fill in between the train cars. This required us backing on to the ferry. More fun! It was a quiet sunny trip to Wellington. We then headed out of Wellington and on to Highway 1 up the west coast of the North Island to Wanganui. The city is a regional province center and has been around since the 1840’s. They have done a good job maintaining their historical downtown, large parks, and public buildings, all along the Wanganui River. A very pleasant day after the marathon!

Quirky Living Note: As you travel around the South Island, you see signs warning about DIDYMO. I couldn’t pass up this one, particularly when a DIDYMO inspector visited us when we were waiting for the Interislander ferry. You have always wanted to know that DIDYMO is more commonly known here as rock snot. Didymosphenia geminata, commonly known as didymo or rock snot, is a species of diatom that grows in warm and shallow water. If it overgrows, it can form large mats on the bottom of lakes, rivers and streams. It is not considered a significant human health risk, but it can affect stream habitats and sources of food for fish and make recreational activities unpleasant. It is considered a nuisance organism or invasive species. The microscopic algae can be spread in a single drop of water. This looks like a problem similar to milfoil in Washington State.

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